News item

Cowboy builder duped pensioner out of almost £13,000

A builder who drove a 79-year old Chessington woman to a bank to get thousands of pounds to pay him for poor and unnecessary work has admitted charging excessive amounts.

Hugh Christopher Coyle, aged 48, of Clayton Rd, Chessington duped the pensioner into paying him £12,900 for sub-standard work after a small repair job escalated.

Lavender Hill Magistrates heard last week that in April last year Coyle approached the woman and told her that her driveway was dangerous and that he could ‘make a good job of it’. She said she was not interested but then saw Coyle standing on her garage roof which he said he could fix it too.

Coyle quoted a few hundred pounds to patch the garage roof and to repair the driveway. He returned a few days later with two other men and told the woman that there were more jobs that needed to be done which he would do for £11,700 in total. This included painting a fence, putting in a new door and other repairs and decorating inside the house.

Coyle did not provide any written quotation or paperwork, and after agreeing the price for all the work asked for advance payments. The woman began withdrawing £300 a day and was not given receipts.

On one occasion Coyle asked for £2,000 because he was going to Cyprus on holiday to rest as he had hurt himself buying tiles for the job.

The court was told that Coyle later asked for a further £4,000 and took the woman to the bank to collect the cash.

Coyle then claimed that he had found damp in the attic and said the woman would now need to pay £19,000 in total. The pensioner was concerned about poor workmanship and when Coyle asked for more money she told him to go away.

Kingston Council Trading Standards officers were alerted after the woman complained to police.

A chartered surveyor hired by the council found the work to be “sub-standard and very poor”, and that the actual value of the work done was £3,500-£4,000. The surveyor said that work had been carried out “in order to dupe the homeowner into believing that they were having substantial repairs and improvements to their property in order to justify what is an exorbitant cost for the work actually undertaken.”

When interviewed, Coyle admitted to a trading standards officer that he had not given any written quotes, receipts, or paperwork informing the consumer of her right to cancel the contract. He said that he cannot read and write and asked a friend to issue paperwork where necessary. He denied asking for £19,000, and said that he had driven the woman to the bank at her insistence.

Coyle denied being dishonest but agreed he had been reckless. He is due to be sentenced at Kingston Crown Court in the next few weeks.

Councillor David Glasspool, Cabinet Member for Trading Standards, said:

“We will come down hard on doorstep cowboys, we don’t want them In Kingston.

Reputable traders don’t doorstep people, they get work due to their good reputations.

“Never allow yourself to be pressurised into having work done or making payments immediately. If you feel threatened, intimidated or harassed call the police. If in doubt, keep them out.”

  • for advice or to report a problem to trading standards with doorstep cowboys call the Citizens Advice Bureau on 03454 04 05 06
  • if you want to find a trader to do some work use Buy with Confidence (www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk) or Trustmark (www.trustmark.org.uk)
DATE: 4 September 2014